Regarded by the president as “a system of values,” the 41-article constitution of Uzupis has been translated into many languages, and the copies can be found affixed to a wall on the district’s main street. Some of the articles claim idiosyncratic rights such as “everyone has the right to be idle” and “everyone has the right to be misunderstood.” Others are free-spirited like “no one has the right to have a design on eternity” or “everyone has the right to not to be afraid.”
The republic also has its own calendar of traditions and holidays, some of which are uniquely Uzupian. One of the examples is the New Year’s celebration. Residents welcome the coming of the new year on spring equinox, not in the depth of winter, by throwing used items and old diaries into a fire so as to “escape one’s old stereotypes and cliches and make room for new stereotypes and cliches for the year to come,” Lileikis explains.
As for the national-security concerns, the enclave had a 12-man army for the first few years. It was subsequently disbanded because the existence of force of any kind contradicts Uzupis’ opposition to aggression, be it physical, mental, external or internal.
President Lileikis confesses that the thinking behind the republic is closely connected with poetry. And the founding of the micro-nation by dreamers and idealists indeed sounds like an artwork when Lileikis remarks that “everyone can understand Uzupis in his or her own way.”
AN ARTIST’S COSMOS
As an artist, Lileikis often sheds light on creativity through his works. His latest film MAAT is composed of elegant close-ups of people engaging in different artistic and creative endeavors, a work made to “overcome the ego of an artist,” as the filmmaker puts it. More intriguingly, The Shadow of Heaven (2008) reveals the artistic world of Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (1875 to 1911), a Lithuanian painter and composer who, during his short life, managed to leave a creative legacy that renders him the most influential figure in the modern Lithuanian culture.
Lileikis says that Ciurlionis, who he is related to, has had great influence on his way of understanding the world, and that Ciurlionis’ art provides a “spiritual resistance” to him and his contemporaries. According to Lileikis, the idea of the cosmos takes central stage in Ciurlionis’ paintings, and he “always searches for possibilities to unite this world, to find the source of it.”
Indeed, the description of Uzupis by Lileikis as a “small cosmos, not only part of Vilnius and Lithuania, but a small piece of universe” echoes the motif of the creation and order of the universe Ciurlionis was preoccupied with in his paintings. And it is perhaps not a sheer coincidence that the late legend’s favored theme on the world of mythological and biblical images finds an incarnation in the statue of an angel that took Uzupis’s penniless artists six years to build and erect in the district’s main square and is described by Lileikis as “a symbol of connection between the sky and the earth.”
It is true that the existence of Uzupis is a manifestation of artistic musings, but the nearly two-decade long undertaking also directly affects social and political change, spurred not by “money, but ideas,” or an alternative mode of thinking and existence.